Historic crop loss expected as new frosts hit Brazilian corn areas

19 Jul 2021 | Eduardo Tinti

The week has begun with the already-shattered corn market in Brazil enduring  another blow as a new cold wave swept the centre-south of Brazil bringing frosts to corn-producing states and raising fresh concerns about export volumes and contract breaches.

On Monday, frosts hit parts of the states of Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul, with late planted corn areas likely affected.

The cold wave is expected to reach its peak on Tuesday, with forecasts showing potential fresh frosts in the states of Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

“It is going to be a historic crop loss,” Daniele Siqueira from local consultancy Agrural told Agricensus.

The second Brazilian corn crop safrinha has been severely affected by dry and warm weather during key development stages, and crop conditions worsened further in some regions that were hit by frosts for three days in the end of June.

As a result, Agrural has lowered its estimates of Brazil’s safrinha output to 59.1 million mt in early-July, 22 million mt below the initial crop potential and the new frosts could mean these estimates are dampened even further.

As the Brazilian crop outlook continues to deteriorate, analysts believe exports might take the bulk of the hit.

“Output losses will be extremely large across all producing states apart from Mato Grosso… Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul will have no export capacity whatsoever,” Siqueira said.

“Trading companies continue to wash out corn contracts to the domestic market due to price differentials between ports and the interior market and to quality issues,” Victor Martins from Hedgepoint Global Markets said.

Besides volume losses, grain quality is a major concern among farmers, traders and exporters.

“Exporters seem to be cornered, having to pay a quality premium to lift corn standards to fulfil agreements and to outbid the domestic market,” Martins added.

In many cases, producers will need to blend lower quality product with high quality corn to meet export standards.

According to Siqueira, some producers are trying to hoard higher quality first crop corn to blend further ahead, while others are looking to source corn from Mato Grosso or from Paraguay and Argentina.

Although Mato Grosso’s corn production has been impacted by dry weather conditions, it’s crop loss will not be as severe as in other states.

“As Mato Grosso is Brazil’s main exporter, this makes the analysis even harder,” Siqueira said, adding that the big question now is how much of the state’s production will remain in the country and how much will be exported.

Meanwhile, contract breaches are another major concern that has been on the radar since dry conditions slashed domestic production estimates.

“With this week’s frosts, odds are increasing of even more contracts being breached,” Martins told Agricensus.

"This is affecting both exports and domestic deliveries... many producers had committed up to 80% of their crop in forward sales but are harvesting 30-50% less than expected and cannot purchase volumes from other producers to honour contracts,” Martins said.

The lack of good quality products to meet contract standards increases contract breach risks even further.

According to Martins, the situation is so dramatic that "there will not be any corn left in the market in September and the country will need to import much more from Argentina."